Talk, Read, Sing

You are your child’s first and most important teacher, and every time you talk, read and sing together, your child learns. Studies show doing these three activities from birth dramatically increases language and other skills essential for school success. Here are some ideas for increasing and enhancing the talking, reading and singing in your child’s life in the first five years:

Ages 0 – 1: Every time you use words in any language, your infant learns to make connections. Speaking, reading and singing from the start creates bonds and self-esteem, helps your child make connections between sounds and meaning, and builds understanding of words. In fact, children whose parents speak with them from birth do much better in school than other children. When your baby makes sounds, such as cooing or gurgling, respond and have a “conversation,” which helps him know that he is important to you. Tell your baby what you are doing as you move through the day. From the beginning, be sure to have picture books, board books and even waterproof bath books she can gum when she is teething. Read to your infant for short periods of time, holding her in your arms and using silly voices and gestures. Visit the library with your child for book readings. And even if you can’t hold a tune, singing to your baby from the start helps him learn about rhymes and rhythm, which leads to using language.

Ages 1 – 3: Encouraging your child’s early language efforts helps build skills. Asking questions, confirming and repeating back what she says (“You’re right — that is a very big dog!”), and talking about everything from what you see to what you are doing or will be doing (“We’re getting into the car so we can go pick up Grandma.”) enhances learning. Encourage a love of books and reading by attending “story times” and allowing your little one to pick out books at the library. Set aside a half an hour a day (at naptime, bedtime, early in the morning – it doesn’t have to be all at once) to read with your child. Point to pictures and ask your child what is happening or what he likes, and let him turn the pages. At this stage, many children love to hear the same book again and again, because familiar sounds and situations are comforting. Sing, sway and dance to music with your little one, and encourage him or her to sing along to music. Teach your child nursery rhymes and finger plays to build vocabulary. And, of course, turning on family-friendly tunes in the car and singing together is a great way to start the day for you both!

Ages 3 – 5: Preschoolers have a lot to say, and they learn new words every day. Answering your child’s questions — and asking his or her opinions, thoughts and feelings — encourages communication, curiosity, social skills, self-esteem and builds vocabulary. Continue reading with your child, helping him identify familiar words and sounds. Allow your child to choose books that feature his or her interests, and ask him to share the story or information with another person. Singing helps preschoolers build memory and listening skills as well as recognize patterns. Have children learn a song, practice it and perform for you. Host family sing-alongs and ask your child to lead.

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